Ankaran Immersion by Will Weisser

All her life, Eveningstar of the Pure has honed her survival skills against the strand, a nanotech organism which infests most of the planet. And she has always shunned the Tainted, those who replace their body parts with tamed strand to enhance their bodies and minds. But then a gang of child soldiers kidnaps her brother, taking him to the distant Gridlands, past a gauntlet of shape-shifting monsters. In an eternal war between technology and nature-between those who oppose it and those who embrace it-Evie will need to break the law, put aside her distrust for the Tainted, and perhaps even take a few of their tricks for her own if she wants to save her brother.

I picked this novel up while on a bit of a sci-fi kick, though it manages to fill that elusive “almost-fantasy” niche which means both fantasy and sci-fi fans can enjoy it.

Ankaran Immersion is very much a book which draws its main strength from its interesting setting and excellent worldbuilding. The planet has been largely covered by something called the strand. What is the strand, you ask?

Imagine a huge pool of sentient metal, with cable-like strands spreading across the world like a virus. The strand can set traps to catch unsuspecting humans or animals, and humans can take pieces of the strand to augment their own capabilities. If that wasn’t enough, there exists an entire world inside the strand which is inhabited by a number of AI (called Ints), each with their own agendas. Provided they have a strand implant, some humans can visit this world through a process known as “immersion”. However, humanity isn’t exactly agreed on whether such implants should be allowed.

Thus, we end up with two groups of humans. There are the Ankaran (or the Pure), and there are the Tainted. One group wants nothing to do with the strand, and the other just can’t get enough of it, really.

Two of our main characters are Ankaran: Evie and Hunter. Evie is the rigid, responsible older sister, and Hunter is the curious and adventurous little brother.

These two very quickly run into our third main character, who is a Tainted bounty hunter named Ono. He’s the competent and gruff type, and has a little issue with a violent alter-ego named Aunio that tries to take control of his body whenever he uses his strand implants.

As the plot unfolds we learn about AI and human politics, and how the struggle for power on both sides can impact their worlds. The human world in particular is in a bit of a state, with a kidnap-happy warlord leading an army of child soldiers.

Will Weisser is truly talented at worldbuilding. The information is drip-fed to you throughout the book, allowing you to appreciate the world and the story as a whole. He writes in a confident and functional style that never gets in the way of the story. It’s not poetic, but it doesn’t have to be.

The characters are engaging, with a good mix of proactivity and reactivity. While some people love it when the characters drive the plot, I like to have a bit of give and take, and this definitely had that.

I don’t know if I formed any real connections with the characters, but this is often a deeply personal thing. I was rooting for them, and Weisser managed to elicit an emotional response from me with some scenes, but I still believe that the main strength of this novel lies in the setting. Perhaps people who can relate to caring for a younger family member will find this book more emotionally impactful.

Again, I can’t emphasize enough just how cool this world is. Cyberpunk is not something I would have considered reading before, but this may have opened the floodgates.

This is a book that deserves more readers.


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